Digital technologies:
Learning, teaching, leadership and
professional development
Rosamund Sutherland
Graduate School of Education
University of Bristol
A person-plus perspective
The environments in which humans live are thick with
invented artefacts that are in constant use for
structuring activity, for saving mental work, or for
avoiding errors or they are adapted creatively almost
without notice. These ubiquitous mediating structures
that both organise and constrain activity include not
only designed objects such as tools, control
instruments, and symbolic representations like graphs,
diagrams, text, plans and pictures, but people in social
relations, as well as features and landmarks in the
physical environment”
Pea, 1993 p 48
Extension of human
“Computer-based technologies can be
powerful pedagogical tools – not just rich
sources of information, but extensions of
human capabilities and contexts for social
Bransford et al, 1999, page 218
Teaching and Learning
Research Programme
Policy for ICT in schools
“The mandate for ICT in education has
overwhelmingly been interpreted by
schools as a licence to acquire
equipment” Dale et al, 2004, InterActive Education
This has been costly, but in addition, has
detracted from an emphasis on teaching
and learning.
Structure of presentation
The potential of digital technologies
Learning out-of-school
Learning and teaching in schools
The role of leadership and professional
Digital technologies
An ever expanding resource
•productive tool
Many young people have access to digital technologies out-of-school
Learning as a ‘by-product’
•Engagement with digital technologies
inevitably leads to some form of
•This learning is usually incidental and
non-intentional — not the purpose of
the activity.
This ‘informal’ learning often overlaps
with what schools are trying to teach.
Use of digital technologies
potentially provides access
to new skills (Jenkins, 2009)
• to experiment with the surroundings as a
way of problem solving
to interpret and construct dynamic models of
real world processes
to interact meaningfully with tools that expand
mental capacities,
to pool knowledge and compare notes with
others towards a common goal
to search for, synthesise and disseminate
Participatory culture
“A growing body of scholarship suggests
potential benefits from these forms of
participatory culture, including
opportunities for peer-to-peer learning,
a changed attitide towards intellectual
property, the development of skills
valued in the modern workplace, and a
more empowered conception of
citizenship”. ( Jenkins, p xii)
Access to new knowledge?
Young people’s use of digital
technologies out-of-school relates to their
own personal interests.
This may or may not include:
mathematics, science, languages, music, history,
Eroding boundaries
between out-of-school and
• The hard boundaries between out-of-school
learning and in-school learning are being
eroded by young people’s use of digital
• What are the implications for schooling?
The participation gap
“The unequal access to the opportunities,
experiences, skills and knowledge that
will prepare youths for full participation in
the world of tomorrow”
Jenkins, p xii
Creative tension between
incidental and intended
• Young people can work with ICT for
long periods of time, investigating their
own questions and experimenting with
• There is a creative tension between
incidental and intended learning.
Learning science influenced by out-of-school
game playing
Teach: It’s not real, it’s like a
simulation.So it’s a bit
of a…
James: It’s a bit like a game
Teach: It is a bit like a game
We gotta beat people
Jessica I bet you mine isn’t gonna
last five minutes. Oh,
what’s going on? Where’s
he gone?
Give him food, he’s going
crazy. He is going crazy.
He’s getting really thin.
Sunita Give him some food!
No let him go. When our
fish dies
Sunita Don’t die! We gotta beat
Data handling in the primary
Does Every Tube Of Smarties Contain the Same Number of
Each Colour?
worked in
They sorted,
and counted
They entered
this data into
Microsoft Excel,
to create
charts. BUT!…
then the
Learner as teacher
How can I use Excel to represent my data?
began to
windows TM
to explore
the tool.
They used drag
and drop, and
wizards to create
This became an
opportunity to
encourage the
children to
become the
other, or expert
and teach the
Creating a knowledge world
•To enter the world of science you have to learn to
speak, to theorise, to act with the tools of science. This
is the same for music, for English, for mathematics, for
geography, for history……..
•People are central to the creation of these knowledge
worlds which are constantly evolving because of the
invention of new (increasingly digital) tools.
•From this perspective teachers are key architects in
building the knowledge-base for an information society.
The teacher is central
“No educational reform can get off the ground
without an adult actively and honestly
participating — a teacher willing and prepared
to give and share aid to comfort and to scaffold.
Learning in its full complexity involves the
creation and negotiation of meaning in a larger
culture and the teacher is the vicar of the
culture at large. You cannot teacher-proof a
curriculum any more than you can parent-proof
a family”.
Bruner 1996 p 84
Leadership and knowledge
One of the major roles of leaders is to
create the context (and culture) conducive
to sharing and creating knowledge. Much
valuable knowledge is tied up in people in
the form of so-called tacit knowledge.
Capitalising on these individual riches
requires a culture that fosters exchange
and collaboration.
Professional development
as sharing knowledge
You will remember from school other
students preventing you from seeing
their answers by placing their arm
around their exercise book or exam
The problem with hoarding is you end
up living off your reserves. Eventually
you’ll become stale.
Somehow the more you give away the
more comes back to you.
Ideas are open knowledge. Don’t claim
Professional development
•Professional development needs to enable teachers to
take risks with digital technologies and learning.
•Teachers can work within the constraints of available
technology to transform learning.
•Language is the master tool.
Teachers as enabled
The InterActive Project showed that a
successful model for professional
development is to create networked
communities in which teachers and
researchers work in partnership to design
and evaluate learning initiatives which
use ICT as a tool for learning
New models of professional
Such professional development requires
people to break out of set roles and
relationships in which researchers are
traditionally seen as knowledge
generators and teachers as knowledge
translators or users.
A digital tool potentially
People have to learn to use the tool in a
transformative way.
Some concluding remarks
• There is nothing inherent in digital technologies that guarantees
the intended learning
• The teacher remains key to the successful use of digital
technologies for learning in schools
• There is a two-way exchange of knowledge between home and
school use of digtal technologies that impacts on learning in
• Effective teaching and learning with digital technologies in
schools involves building bridges between ‘incidental’ and
‘intended’ learning.

ICT and the Transformation of Learning